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Small District Reacts To Proposed Changes To Junk Food Advertising

February 26, 2014, 4:59 PM by Hailey Higgins

Small District Reacts To Proposed Changes To Junk Food Advertising
LENNOX, SD -

New health changes could be coming not only to your student's lunchroom, but also to the school gym and football field.

New rules proposed by the White House and the Agriculture Department this week would limit marketing of unhealthy foods in schools.

The proposed rules would phase out the advertising of sugary drinks and junk foods around campus during the school day. They would also ensure that other promotions in schools were in line with the same health standards that already apply to school foods.

The Coca-Cola sign on the scoreboard at the Lennox School District football field wouldn't be allowed if new health proposals are put in place across the country.

Advertisements of products not measuring up to the new school lunch health standards would have to be removed from school campuses. Superintendent Robert Mayer says the guidelines themselves are misguided.

"If you take a Coke sign off the scoreboard, or wherever you got it, it isn't going to make any difference in the eating habits of a child," Mayer said.

The proposed rules come on the heals of new USDA guidelines requiring school lunches to be healthier.

The new proposals are part of first lady Michelle Obama's initiative to combat childhood obesity, and she's backed by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

"If you can't sell it, you really ought not to be able to market it," Vilsack said.

But Vilsack admits marketing in schools is big business. He says companies spend nearly $150 million a year on marketing in schools. Money small school districts rely on to supplement their small budgets.

Mayer won't say how much money the district gets from Coca-cola, but says the federal government is out of bounds.

"I don't have a problem with them trying to encourage people to get involved into healthier eating and healthier lifestyles. I think that is very significant. But trying to force it and mandate it is a major objection I have because I don't think it will work," Mayer said.

Afraid of the backlash, the USDA is allowing schools to make some of their own decisions on what constitutes marketing and asking for comments on some options.

The rules would also allow more children access to free lunches and ensuring school shave wellness policies in place.

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